Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Benee ft. Gus Dapperton – Supalonely

Twee as fuck…


[Video]
[4.29]

Kylo Nocom: It’s like seeing a fun flick gradually transform into a horror movie and Gus Dapperton’s the jump scare.
[3]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Supalonely” is the Tiktok hit that will swallow the earth and destroy all others. It’s got everything. Every vocal tic and ad lib is catchy like a xanthium burr, the kind of hooks that you would build an entire song around a decade ago reduced to passing fancies. In its production style, which sounds all at once polished and completely ramshackle (what’s going on with the autotune?), “Supalonely” gets to have it both ways– competent enough to work as a conventional pop track but goofy enough to take the back route to success. Even the bits that don’t work end up charming– Dapperton’s guest verse, which is so Irish that it sounds Spanish for the first two bars, is absolutely garbage, but against the bubblegum slap bass it’s glorious garbage. Yet “Supalonely” conquers all, in the end, by virtue of being a tightly written and performed song on Benee’s part, a sturdy chassis necessary to hang all the memes on.
[8]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “Supalonely” was released almost six months ago, but listening to it now in the era of social distancing feels almost a little too on-the-nose. (Case in point: “I’m a sad girl/In this big world/It’s a mad world.”) Nevertheless, this is still a pithy, puerile tune, pleasant for springtime if we’re ever allowed to enjoy it. 
[6]

Ian Mathers: The last time all I could muster was “serviceable enough” and this isn’t even that, having tipped firmly over into twee annoyance. Not helped by being inescapable enough that, when I went to go replay the video, the ad before it was… the video for “Supalonely”. Gus Dapperton (you could have called yourself anything!) absolutely does not help. The production itself isn’t too bad (the bass is nice) but every performance and production (notable vocal processing ought to be have an aesthetic and/or thematic point!) choice made around the singing and lyrics irks. It’s so gormless and weightless that it almost plays like making fun of genuine loneliness.
[1]

Joshua Copperman: “La-la-la-la-lonely” is the purest distillation of Gen-Z pop yet, right up there with singing “there’s a dead girl in the pool!!” to the tune of “Last Friday Night.” Also: Deadpanning “I’m a lonely bitch” in auto-tune over adult contemporary disco. Gus Dapperton’s Rex Orange Countrified Gnash and placement of normal-phrase-turned-dated-meme “I can’t stress this enough.” There’s a version of this that’s fun, maybe a version that even subverts these tropes, but while it’s not the most pandering song I’ve heard recently, it gets there by accident.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Twee-dee-dee-dee. 
[2]

Nina Lea: I first heard this song on TikTok, where it has become a staple backing track for teens filming dance videos. Sonically, it’s a slightly-too-saccharine, VSCO-girl-styled ode to FOMO. At the same time, though, after being in my studio apartment for going on twenty-six days, loneliness never sounded so charming.
[5]

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Sisters On Wire – Taip Jau Gavosi

Back in my day, we danced outdoors…


[Video][Website]
[6.44]

Scott Mildenhall: It’s their first song not in English, so this is naturally the perfect time for this site to write about Sisters On Wire. To use a cliché though, Ieva Šèerbinskaitė doesn’t need translation to defy any language barrier. In English, the lyrics read as impressionistic slivers of isolation, and that’s just as they sound without semantic detail. Inevitably, Christine and the Queens comes to mind — the solo dance video could almost be an admission of that — but though there are overlaps across this spacious synth wilderness, “Taip Jau Gavosi” is less obviously redemptive than something like “People, I’ve Been Sad”. It’s bitter without the sweet.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The riff’s a grabber, and its woolly-headed gait approximates a marriage between slow The 1975 and a ’90s Stereolab B-side. It’s very nice. 
[5]

Will Adams: This is pretty in the same way “Somebody Else” is: melancholic synthpop with artfully placed fog, as if spritzed on with an airbrush. I wished for more of what the first 45 seconds offered, though; those clustered harmonies against the minimal backing are gorgeously delicate. What follows is an effective groove, but it feels familiar.
[6]

David Moore: Gauzy pop with a hint of retro adult contempo dorkiness that is still in vogue in the indie pop world, I guess — maybe they play this in pharmacies in Lithuania. 
[5]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: After scouring the internet researching this song and band, I’ve been largely unable to find anything. Translations of the lyrics are nowhere to be found, and I have no idea what “Taip Jau Gavosi” is about other than dancing in a mysteriously empty parking lot. The band seems to be trolling people wondering about the origins behind the name “Sisters on Wire.” It’s all a real shame, because moody Lithuanian Spotify-core is really something that I could have gotten into.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: My teenage self, enamored of The Knife remix of Stina Nordenstam’s “Parliament Square,” would be very disappointed to hear that, in 2020, A) y’know, pandemic B) nowadays, pitch-shifted squiggles like the ones that lead “Taip Jau Gavosi” (when will someone write a bad thinkpiece that nevertheless gives them a “millennial whoop”-esque name?) aren’t exciting but cliched. This gets better, though, more inspired by synths than syncs. On the transcendent-melancholy scale, the song’s overall too far toward melancholy, but as it builds it inches slowly back. And after the bridge it’s no longer slow, thanks to a smart deployment of 40% of the “In the Air Tonight” break.
[7]

Tobi Tella: Somewhere between haunting and nondescript, though the hook is undeniably catchy. Bonus points for the vocal chops around the bridge, a well-employed use of the trick that lets both catharsis and frustration shine through.
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Though I imagine everyone’s a bit sick of the kind of synthpop that executes dance moves in slow motion, “Taip Jau Gavosi” has a vocalist whose voice lands in the sweet spot right between ghostliness and pleasant forwardness. The writing’s pretty fab, too: lonely poetics colored with shades of “Vermillion.” And, hey, hard not to envy a song in 2020 that imagines what it’s like to be out in the city.
[7]

Leah Isobel: A garbled internet translation of “Taip Jau Gavosi”‘s lyrics offers this gem: “And I’m the only one/ Brandy on a dark street.” Like that (maybe incorrect) line, the song breathes with a rich, intoxicating loneliness. As I grow older, love sounds less sugary than it once did and more like this – like a windy night where the synth and guitar tones blur into a faded streetlamp glow, and bitterness is something I can learn to savor.
[8]

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Itzy – Wannabe

If you wanna be my bias, you gotta stan all my friends…


[Video]
[5.56]

Michael Hong: As far as concept and sound, Itzy stepped onto the scene fully-formed, five girls declaring loudly declaring their individuality through joyfully rapped hooks and ad-libs, all over some of the most interesting instrumentals of the genre. Their sound was so popular that LOONA’s latest title track was often bemoaned to be a lifeless version of an Itzy track (the instrumental that precedes it manages to rip the melody of “Dalla Dalla”). So for everyone who bemoaned LOONA’s lack of originality, Itzy have thrown an even duller version of their own sound into the mix. “Wannabe” removes what made the group so charming — their emphasis on individuality without comparison to others and the stacked hooks — leaving a pretty stiff and uninspired version of their sound that lacks their former colourful personality.
[4]

Joshua Lu: Itzy’s schtick of self-empowerment via bratty bops has finally hit its limit. Their previous singles managed to make obnoxiousness enjoyable, and while “Wannabe” has general catchiness and spunk, the whole act feels perfunctory and forced on this third go-around. Being able to see past this fun veneer and into how market-tested it all feels brings down the entire song; the dubstep elements feel noisy and obvious, and the “I wanna be me, me, me” chant is hollow and limp. It’z time to switch it up.
[4]

Alfred Soto: A couple bass sounds show a sonic familiarity with Dua Lipa’s current practices, and “Wannabe” stays fresh and frantic (is that “freshly frantic”?) — are those guitars in the chorus?
[7]

Katie Gill: I kind of wish this was worse? I mean, I adore “Dalla Dalla” and “Icy” because those songs are absolutely obnoxious. There are traces of that in “Wannabe” (that bounce behind the first verse is awful, I love it). But this song never reaches the bratty, obnoxious heights that their first two songs did. The chorus especially is disappointingly safe. Still, this is a catchyass song, perfect for jumping around the room and singing into your hairbrush, so I can’t dock it TOO many points.
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Giddy, propulsive, and domineering in the best way possible: Meghan Trainor, I hope you’re taking notes somewhere! 
[7]

Kylo Nocom: Remember “Loonatic?” That, except even closer to the kitchen-sink approach of Art Angels. At the expense of anything sounding good and with the same lyrical approach they’ve had for their past title tracks, sure, but it’s interesting for a minute!
[3]

David Moore: The unfashionable mid-aughts pastiche here — the introductory winding of a music box, fake guitars, someone yelling “Action!” in the background at some point — at least has an appealing wax museum quality to it.
[5]

Alex Clifton: Much like “Dalla Dalla” before it (which, in retrospect, I underrated) we have multiple stylistic shifts that somehow fit together, although I don’t know how the producers got them to fit. Blackpink tried to do something similar with “Kill This Love” but Itzy succeeds where Blackpink stumbled. The chorus has a rush of energy to it and forces the song (and the listener) forward, while “Kill This Love” had a non-chorus that dampened the entire song. K-pop over the past year has trended towards mixing disparate styles, which some have been able to pull off successfully while others have succumbed to the weight of the production. Itzy, however, makes it all look so dang easy.
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: An overwhelmingly bright and shiny object of a beat, with a limp lyric on self-confidence tacked onto it almost as afterthought. They could be singing about anything and it’d still be fun.
[6]

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Sub Urban – Cradles

When the wind blows, the “Cradles” won’t rock…


[Video]
[3.50]

Kylo Nocom: “Cradles” started off its journey on NoCopyrightSounds a year ago. You can kind of see how this would’ve appealed to the type of teenagers that stream games: a pretty clear EDM-drop structure, kinda gimmicky, more violently creepy than the cartoonishness of more realized Gen-Z stars to where it might not even register as pop music. Of course, being free to use, it inadvertently became a TikTok sound and now we’ve got someone whose budding alt-pop stardom appears to be a mistake. Thankfully, “Cradles” is great enough that I don’t mind more from this guy. If Billie Eilish’s taste in horror was Blumhouse, then Sub Urban’s is more Burton: style over substance, but a cool enough aesthetic that I don’t care if the content’s a bit lacking. Though it was aggravating to hear so much emphasis on When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? as a producer-project, a love letter to FINNEAS’s sound design is inherently more intriguing than the failed attempts at capturing Billie’s particular teen-sad.
[8]

Alfred Soto: I’m not sure why he whispers the pretty Beatle-esque melody beneath the mild industrial gewgaws. Is the alternative more offensive?
[4]

Michael Hong: Dreary vocals that sound almost bored over toyish instrumentals, sort of like if Troye Sivan developed Melanie Martinez’s aesthetic. Not quite as repulsive as Martinez’s work, but the overall feel is more offputting than horror.
[2]

David Moore: Ah, that special guitar fuzz that evokes a cheap-looking video with a creepy dollhouse in it…and right on cue they steer into celesta in the (non-)chorus and take it all the way over the top.
[3]

Oliver Maier: The instrumental hook is a little more abrasive than it needed to be, bordering on Kai Whiston territory, and that’s a plus, but the overall aesthetic has been cliché for years now. If I understand the TikTok market correctly this is the kind of song that e-boys glower at their cameras to? I think ideally music for sad teens should aim for catharsis if it can’t be more imaginative in its wallowing. 
[3]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: From an aesthetic point of view, Sub Urban’s disaffected, creepy persona is a spot-on Billie Eillish impression. But if I love Eillish so much, why do I viscerally dislike this so much? Let’s start with the artist himself: whereas Eillish makes music feel like a meditation on feeling alone in this turbulent world, Sub Urban comes across as an egotistic 19-year-old troll whose self-deprecation is toxic. In his Genius interview for “Cradles” he has the noxiousness to say things such as “I wrote this two years ago when I was a dissociating little bitch teenager and not much has changed” and the smugness to say things such as “I was born into a fortunate life. I’ve gained even more fortune since I started doing music. I got full pockets and now I got too much luck.” His arrogance extends even further: about other music, he says “Every fucking sound, just, it sounded the same, even the diverse shit… the current shit that’s out right now, y’all production fucking sucks. I’m so sick of emo hip-hop because it’s so poorly blended.” As if his music sounds original! All it takes is one listen to “Cradles a friend” or “Cradles Guy” to see how much of a knockoff this is! Sub Urban himself sounds like Panic at the Disco! or Twenty One Pilots except neutered. Add in my discovery of a Reddit post titled “Sub Urban is Billie Eillish for Boys,” and I just wish that this song would take its aesthetic more seriously and actually burst into flames.
[0]

Scott Mildenhall: That the lyrics sound so much like self-parody probably indicates an admirable commitment to the cause — it would certainly be disappointing to learn they were born more of calculation than heart. It’s somewhat enjoyable to hear even without sharing in that investment, particularly with the slowed-down “Golden Brown” riff, but for all that “Cradles” projects idiosyncrasy, it suggests superior influences twice as hard.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: An incredible drop wrapped in replacement-level songcraft. The part that works suceeds for exactly the reason the rest fails — the distorted music box trick, which only gets more chopped up as the song goes on, is a truly unexpected sonic tool. The rest, from the dead-eyed delivery to the mall goth poetry laureate lyrics, is exactly what you would expect from a song called “Cradles” by an artist called Sub Urban.
[3]

Monday, April 6th, 2020

Davido – 1 Milli

A milli, a milli, a milli, a milli…


[Video]
[6.67]
Tim de Reuse: A single sonic moment with a single flavor and a single goal. The lush pads, overlapping voices, and purposefully obscured downbeat congeal into a plucky blur. It’s an interesting case, because nothing actually happens, but it’s also kind of forgettable, because nothing actually happens.
[5]

Oliver Maier: Like a clear blue sky, almost too sunny and instantly agreeable to properly appreciate. Luckily Davido’s vocals — both the lead and particularly the ad-libs — are elastic and occasionally dazzling, supplying motion to “1 Milli” where the repetitive beat cannot.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Listening to “1 Milli” is the feeling of smiling at one of your partners’ shameless come-ons — knowing all the while how corny it is — just because you love them. Watch the video and the way Davido looks at his fiancée Chioma Rowland and tell me he doesn’t radiate joy.
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Davido has been an excellent romancer (plugging his underrated collaboration with violinist Demola from last year) and “1 Milli” is no exception. Though the first verse begins with a playful Internet jab that places the song firmly in reality, the song slowly progresses towards a transient, all-enveloping warmth I haven’t felt in pop for years. The outro is the best bit — a subtle choral sample sifting in and out of focus.
[8]

David Moore: Tough times, so I’m a sucker for some modestly aspirational sunshine. Bonus point for making me openly weep with a phrase I possibly misheard as “tell your mommy I’m OK.” Gonna need to unpack that one, but it’s open season on open weeping.
[7]

Nina Lea: There’s an expansiveness to this song. Davido keeps the synths light and the harmonies gentle, evoking not the crowded neon-lit dancehall but something else: open sky, prayerfulness, a rejoicing in love. At a time when so many of us cannot leave our homes, a kind of balm.
[8]

Monday, April 6th, 2020

Demi Lovato – I Love Me

And we’re OK with you!


[Video][Website]
[5.86]
Katie Gill: This song does a lot of flip-flopping. The flip-flopping between loud and soft in the chorus? Inspired, wonderful; that grabbed my attention SUPER quick and while it is a bit gimmicky, it’s gimmicky in an over-the-top way that I adore. The flip-flopping of the lyrics, where Lovato jumps between a straightforward self-love song and a more critical analysis of how she reacts and grapples with the concept of self-love? A bit less solid. Hanging the song on “I wonder when ‘I love me’ is enough” is a really ballsy choice; don’t immediately blow past it with that bridge about being a 10 out of 10.
[6]

David Moore: A few good lines here — “Jedi-level sabotage”! — but the clunky alternating piano plink and wall-of-sound arena chorus is a little jarring, like a Lil Yachty and Imagine Dragons co-production. There was a good edgy empowerment anthem last year that I never heard anyone else talk about — “Kiss My Fat Ass” by Sheppard.
[4]

Michael Hong: If “Anyone” was Demi Lovato’s “Lose You to Love Me” then “I Love Me” is her “Look At Her Now,” colourfully weird (“Jedi level sabotage”) and upbeat, superior to the blander ballad. The difference between the performers is that Gomez twirled circles around her production, whereas Lovato merely goes louder, making her vocal theatrics appear ostentatious and clumsy.
[5]

Alfred Soto: After a game, even frisky start, “I Love Me” swells to unhealthy proportions. I know the title’s a joke, but next time less loud, please.
[5]

Kylo Nocom: Demi presents the stitched remains of a Xeroxed “Truth Hurts” (“Truth Hurts” : this :: “No Problem” : “Sorry Not Sorry”), Lauv’s cutesy Ikea-pop, and a ballad we might’ve heard from her in 2011. Chaos ends up saying so much more than any individual piece would have otherwise.
[8]

Joshua Lu: Demi Lovato has released a song like “I Love Me” for every album cycle since 2013, but this iteration manages to feel a bit fresh in spite of its predictability. Part of its charm is how it recognizes the limits of songs like these, or “Sorry Not Sorry,” or “Skyscraper,” where reminders of self-love and personal resilience are rarely effective. Demi keeps it playful as well; the way the chorus swells and then quickly drops off is a great way to emphasize her great vocals without pushing it too far.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Brimming with self-reference without sounding pedantic, looking darkness in the face while guarding a sense of humor, comprising huge pop hooks yet still sounding impossibly intimate: “I Love Me” and its brilliant transmutation of self-loathing into self-love will go on to define Demi Lovato’s career.
[7]

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending April 5, 2020

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Ava Max – Kings & Queens

A jack of all trades?


[Video]
[5.40]

Jackie Powell: For many, Ava Max has struggled to distinguish herself. She has similar artistic idiosyncrasies to Lady Gaga but a vocal that soars in a similar trajectory to Marina. The confidence and attitude of her delivery could draw even with Dua Lipa. In 2020 Max returns with “Kings & Queens,” another solo single. But this one has been promoted and packaged as the lead single for her first full-length LP, which still remains to be seen and is untitled to the public. While I could blame the spitfire single releases post-“Sweet But Psycho” on Atlantic Records — who are notorious for stringing their artists along on a topsy-turvy release orbit — putting out a potential pop Kraken in “Kings & Queens” reminds us of how Max can continue to differentiate herself within dancefloor pop circles. Her lyrics are witty, and especially on this cut, she’s not afraid to sell and go all-in on an extended metaphor about gender, power, and nobility: “And you might think I’m weak without a sword/But if I had one, it’d be bigger than yours.” The written visualization carries into the music video treatment and into how the cut sounds. Max lays on a throne accompanied by a sword and then she’s seen knocking down the King on a life-size chess set. The most memorable audible moment is the Brian May “Killer Queen”-esque guitar solo that supersedes the second chorus and then picks up again in the high energy outro. Her messaging is a strength, but her operatic pop vocal is sometimes drowned out by Cirkut’s glossy production. Eight other writers developed this melody. So how does Max break through and become a pop heavyweight? She ought to stick to her strengths and not force her weaknesses. “Sweet But Psycho” was no fluke. Max has something to say, and she ought to continue her cheeky metaphors that are sometimes extended, while discontinuing the eight-piece factory that brainstormed ten “different versions” of this melody.
[7]

Will Adams: There are aspirations toward big ’80s cheese — the chorus lifted from Bon Jovi by-way-of Bonnie Tyler; those rad electric guitars  — but it’s mostly the same wan Gaga pastiche, only enhanced by the presence of RedOne. Even Gaga is releasing better early-Gaga-era music at this point.
[5]

Leah Isobel: This is garish as hell, but that’s a positive — the borrowed melody solidifies Ava as a committed Max-imalist, a Meat Loaf for the Spotify era. But transposing those over-the-top sonics into circa-2010 ~empowerment~ sort of defeats the purpose. Like, yeah, being a woman is hard work, and love is, indeed, a battlefield; for the artists and songs she’s referencing, these truths were just background. Here, that subtext is plain text, and as a result there’s nowhere for the song to build. Ava is left swinging at shadows with her non-existent sword.
[5]

Kayla Beardslee: You Give Feminism a Bad Name.
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: It is indeed a shot through the heart — when Ava Max homages, she homages with a big sign saying she’s done it. What’s better yet is that “Kings & Queens” never seeks to reframe its obvious inspiration through any kind of lens. No layer of archness is required for something which is and always was arch by itself. Instead, this has all the wit and confusion of “Paparazzi” with even more punch. While Gaga’s recent retrospectacle was immensely satisfying, here is a step further: a glimpse into a world in which she denied all impulse to develop, and kept making songs like this forever and ever.
[8]

Kylo Nocom: Attempts to project conservatism onto willfully silly mainstream pop like this and Meghan Trainor always fall flat because it’s hardly any more offensive than most other acceptable brands of pop-feminism. Ava has the voice to give a song as silly as this the needed royal-drama, and the guitars are killer. If Ava is really the fake-Gaga her detractors want her to be, then she’s doing a killer job. Besides, I always preferred “The Queen” to Born This Way‘s failed experiments.
[7]

Oliver Maier: Max’s songcraft is simple, but effective enough to justify her wildly irresponsible metaphor mixing (she’s a queen, but also a dragon at one point, and also maybe Robyn’s pal who arrived at the club a bit late). The harmonised guitar solo and the bridge are the wrong way around, but the former is a welcome anachronism and the latter gets extra credit for being 50% extremely literal chess rules. 
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Robyn in 2010: “I keep dancing on my own.” Ava Max in 2020: “You’re not dancing on your own.” Who do you think I’m gonna side with? 
[3]

Joshua Lu: On paper, “Kings & Queens” should be one of the kookiest pop songs of the year. Listening just brings so many questions to mind; why an electric guitar breakdown right into a downtempo bridge, without any kind of transition? Why do so many of these lines not even try to rhyme? Was this whole monarchy theme employed just for that dick size joke? Or was it just for that chess example? And most importantly: Why is this song, despite all of these disparate elements, so utterly bland?
[4]

Alex Clifton: A perfect bite-size pocket of sugar with Eurodance synths and a chorus that’ll cling to my brain for the next week. I’m a simple girl with extremely basic needs and while this isn’t the greatest song in the universe, it will fit perfectly on my “list of dance songs for quarancleaning.”
[6]

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Celeste – Stop This Flame

Sound of 2020 keeps this fire burning…


[Video][Website]
[7.17]

Alex Clifton: In the midst of global panic and fear, this song has made me feel grateful to be alive, and that alone is worth celebrating.
[10]

Alfred Soto: It’s amazing what a samba preset can do, eh? Celeste hangs back at key moments, yields during others, belts her love in a kind of through line. A reminder of good times that nevertheless stays in the present.
[7]

Olivia Rafferty: It puts a good bid in for what I like to call “BBC Sports Montage” music, which is a type of palatable anthem that could easily be prefaced by Clare Balding announcing today’s Olympic highlights. Piano stays light-footed, bouncing under a pick ‘n’ mix of power lyrics like “you think you’re somebody, don’t you” and “I will never let you go,” before it swells and breaks into a chorus that can only, in my mind, be accompanied by a supercut of sinewy athletes panting round the stadium.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: As eclectic as British radio can be at its best, “Sinnerman” would struggle to straddle its airwaves with the same strength as something like “Stop This Flame”. The flame in question could well be the one passed between annually anointed MOR soul saviours; an unextinguished and occasionally indistinguishable dream of the record industry. Given the context, things could be so much worse. Heart will never play “Sinnerman”, but they could hammer this, and it would be a worthy substitute. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that it falls far short of the extent of Celeste’s ambitions, but someone has to carry the torch.
[7]

Oliver Maier: Celeste has the vocals, but winds up sabotaged by her stock Adele melodies and some clumsy instrumental decisions. The stabbing piano chords jut out at all the wrong angles, as if they were recorded separately from everything else and stuffed in at the last second. It’s the drums that really disappoint, though; you can’t expect to carry the weight of a song this massive-sounding with rim clicks.
[4]

Jackie Powell: Celeste knows the true definition of a lede. Fifteen seconds in and I’m sold. While her blend into her head voice is incredibly reminiscent of Adele, let’s remember who was putting out records with this sound first. Somewhere Amy Winehouse’s soul is smiling and Mark Ronson is thinking about how he can get her on the phone. At this point, their collaboration is inevitable. Here’s what’s also indubitable: Winehouse’s influence on Britpop is incessant and omnipresent.
[10]

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Skip Marley & H.E.R. – Slow Down

Scion strikes a [5] — uninspired?


[Video]
[5.00]

Ian Mathers: There’s a great moment in Party Down, one of the best jokes in the whole series, that ends with Jane Lynch responding to the question “how big would a bird have to be for you to be, like, super-scared of it?” with the following, delivered in heart-rending sincerity: “I’m sorry, Kyle. I can’t think straight right now, and that’s such a good question.” Right now, that’s what it feels like trying to articulate anything more complicated than “yeah, it’s pretty nice” about an awful lot of the music out there. This is from January but it feels like it could be from a hundred years ago, and I don’t mean sonically.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A duet so all-encompassingly warm and sweet that it’s hard to say all that much about it. It’s a pairing I wouldn’t necessarily expect to work, but Marley’s looseness is the necessary companion to H.E.R.’s studio perfection — he brings out the best in her, allowing for her vocals to enter a more playful space than where they usually land. The whole track is a celebration, with enough flourishes and details to transcend mere vibe music, but a relaxed enough feeling to put you at ease as the guitars and horns dance to a subtle climax.
[8]

David Sheffieck: At this point H.E.R. is approaching a nearly two-year run of extremely accomplished singing on extremely dull songs; it’s a track record so perfectly blemished I almost hope she is aiming for it. My last encounter with Skip Marley was “Chained to the Rhythm” — so for him, this is a step forward in that it’s not an instant punchline. Unfortunately it’s also a step backward in that it’s instantly forgotten.
[2]

Alex Clifton: I’m not sure this needed to be a reggae song? It’s laid-back and chilled but it’s also dull. Nothing about this makes me actually want to slow down, because I kept hoping the song would end soon. H.E.R. sounds great, but that’s not enough to save a mediocre duet from itself.
[4]

Oliver Maier: Marley just about manages on his own, but “Slow Down” is improved by the introduction of H.E.R.; the interplay that the pair arrive at feels both charming and unforced. No big surprises, just a straight cruise from point A to point B in one gear.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: So quintessential that it’s inessential, “Slow Down”, perhaps the second in a series following the similarly passed-down “Calm Down”, doesn’t linger in the memory. It has more going for it than “Calm Down”, being that bit more classicist and bearing the bonus of duet interplay to make its generalities more specific, but it remains unlikely to wake up the lions.
[6]